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R.G.G.I. carbon auction fetches $42 million; 38% remains unsold

The nine states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative accumulated a total of $41.6 million in proceeds from the program's 15th quarterly auction of carbon dioxide allowances.

More than half, 62 percent, of the 34,843,858 allowances offered for sale were sold for bids from $1.93 to $5.35 per allowance. The proceeds will be used by the participating states for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

R.G.G.I. is the first mandatory, market-based carbon dioxide emissions reduction program in the United States, participated in by Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The participating states have determined to reduce their power sector carbon dioxide emission by 10 percent by 2018. To do this, they each have an individual Carbon Dioxide Budget Trading Program which limits the emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-fired power plants with a generation capacity of 25 megawatts or more.

Alongside the caps each state puts on its power plants, they also issue carbon dioxide allowances that the power plants can buy during the quarterly auctions to allow them to meet their emission limits.

The allowances represent 1 short ton of carbon pollution with the total amount of allowances sold not exceeding 188 million tons per year through 2014.

After 2014, the cap will be reduced gradually by 2.5 percent per year over four years to achieve the overall reduction target of 10 percent by 2018.

"R.G.G.I. investments keep $765 million in our states by reducing fossil fuel expenditures. At the same time, we are reducing harmful pollution. This double impact - of enhancing local economies and reducing emissions - is what makes R.G.G.I. so effective," said David Littell, a commissioner of the Maine Public Utilities Commission and vice chair of R.G.G.I., Inc.

While Mr. Littell and the program's supporters claim the program is fulfilling its mandate, a significant portion of the carbon allowances available at the auctions still remain unsold.

For this auction, 38 percent of the allowances generated remained unsold, continuing a trend that started on December 2011 when the 14th quarterly auction sold 27.3 million of the available 43 million allowances, leaving 37 percent unsold.

The next R.G.G.I. auction is scheduled for June 6, 2012. – Katrice R. Jalbuena

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